Sunday, February 18, 2018

Chinese New Year in New York City: Where to Dine for Good Luck and Prosperity during the Year of the Dog

The Year of the Dog celebrates the return of spring and the beginning of the Chinese New Year.  This is a festival of unity, a way for friends and family to come together to enjoy traditions that will bring good fortune for the coming year. 2018 celebrates the dog, a symbol of loyalty and honesty, as we breathe some optimism into the days ahead. Unlike one-night New Year’s celebrations, Chinese New Year is celebrated for two weeks, through March 2 so you have plenty of time to enjoy. Here are some ways you can participate in this important holiday:

The sexiest celebration in New York City happens at Hakkasan in the Theater District. Kicked off by a lion dance on the first evening, the two weeks of the Chinese New Year are filled with special dinners and drinks.  For 2018, there is a $118 prix fixe menu (for a minimum of two guests) featuring the best of Hakkasan’s modern Cantonese signature dishes. Dishes have been selected for the cultural significance of their ingredients and their ability to portend good fortune. Baked Chilean sea bass with kumquat glaze will bring prosperity as eating fish at the New Year is said to increase wealth. Similarly, oysters, traditionally symbolizing fortune and good luck, are included in Szechuan oyster with lotus root and crispy rice in mantau. Fat choy is an ingredient that means “to grow wealth” in Chinese and is found in the abalone fried rice in bean curd wrap with Chinese sausage and shiitake mushroom. 


Hakkasan’s dinner also features a special Chinese New Year cocktail, the Good Fortune, made with Grey Goose Orange and fresh blood orange ice (oranges are traditionally given during the new year to symbolize good luck, happiness and abundance); five-spice pomegranate syrup, adding red to the drink, an important color of good luck, and the pomegranates to inspire fertility; satsuma godai; lime juice; and an orange peel rosette to add a touch of floral design, signifying rebirth and luck. Toast away! 


A sweet finish is provided with Hakkasan’s re-imagined fortune cookie, the macartune, which has 88 (8 represents prosperity in Chinese tradition) New York-centric fortunes written by author Jay McInerney like “Your train will arrive on time and there will be a seat available” (happy) or “A new skyscraper is being built next door to your building and your view is about to disappear” (sad). The writer of “Bright Lights, Big City” and Hakkasan  Executive Pastry Chef Alexander Zecena have imagined the vanilla-flavored cooked as a riff on New York’s beloved black and white, with one half coated in chocolate and then stamped with a red chocolate seal to symbolize good luck for the New Year.   


Another tradition continues at Hakkasan, too, the annual wishing tree. Guests receive a red ribbon upon arrival on which they write their wishes. Ribbons are hung around the dining areas, a custom that is said to have begun hundreds of years ago in Hong Kong. In Lam Tsuen, Hong Kong, villagers would arrive to visit the secret Wishing Trees and hang notes on the branches with wishes for the year ahead.  Today, as yesterday, guests are encouraged to write their wishes with the hope that all written down will come true.

Little Tong Noodle Shop in the East Village pays homage to its Yunnanese roots with its first-ever 16-Day Chinese New Year Celebration.  The mixian menu here is enhanced with a special dish at both lunch and dinner such as Day 3’s goubull 18-fold dumplings and Day 16’s yuan xiao, a sweet sticky rice ball soup.  Each day represents a different celebration starting with the Celebration of the Chicken on February 16 with shaokao, fire-grilled chicken wings with gingko and the Celebration of the Dog on February 17 and finishing with the Celebration of the Dragon on March 1 when red snapper and dragon fruit slaw will be served. The grand finale happens on March 2, the Lantern Festival.

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